League of Champions

by Charlie Coffey

Saturday, December 12th, 2009
 

Apart from Liverpool’s situation, the final round of the Champions League group stage was great for English clubs and a fantastic advert for the tournament in general. Arsenal, Chelsea and United finished top of their groups, and some of the goals scored around Europe, often under pressure of the prospect of disqualification, it is important to remember, were unreal.

Two goals from goalkeepers, the first a smooth penalty from Hans-Jorg Butt of Bayern Munich, his third goal against Juventus! The other was a cracking header from the Standard Liege keeper Sinan Bolat in injury time that gave his side the point they needed to finish in third and qualify for the Europa League:

Bolat’s histrionics even before his goal reminded me of Recber Rustu, that bonkers, camouflage paint wearing keeper that used to play for Turkey and at one point Barcelona. A bit of research (i.e. I typed it into Wikipedia) reveals that Bolat is also Turkish. Do they have an equivalent of the Clairefontaine school of excellence for Turkish keepers in which they are strapped in front of a constant looping video of rape and pillage, their peepers held open Clockwork Orange style, before being unleashed onto the football field? Bolat’s celebration would certainly suggest so.

Then there were the free-kicks. Messi’s effort was inch-perfect. Ronaldo’s was incredible. And then there was Mario Balotelli’s. A full 35 yards out in a central position, ‘Super Mario’ dispatched this scud missile from his right boot.

I personally have never seen a ball do that. It sort of vibrated left and right for ten yards before curling out and past the keeper. If you look at the first replay he starts to walk off while the ball is mid-flight as if he fully expected that to happen and does it all the time! If, as rumoured, there are more than one English clubs wanting to sign the enigmatic Ghanaian- Italian in January, they’ll have to cough up a couple of million more after that goal.

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  • Stevie

    Ronaldo’s free kick was superb! Without him Real are pretty average.

    As for that headed goal by the Standard keeper, what a goal! The Europa Cup awaits, wow!!

  • Mike

    Awesome free kick by Ballotelli as well!

  • dexylongshot

    West Ham have constantly been linked with Balotelli on loan. I doubt it’s gonna happen now after half of Europe are queuing up from him. He was in the Euros u21 and is a bit of a hot-head. He gets a lot of abuse in Serie A because of his Ghana roots which is well out of order, a throw back to the 70’s over here. I hope and pray the Zola factor may sway him to the Bolyen, i doubt it thou.

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